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Activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in lipopolysaccharide-induced mouse fatigue and its relevance to chronic fatigue syndrome

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By Z. T. Zhang


BACKGROUND: The NLRP3 inflammasome (NOD-like receptor family, pyrin domain containing 3) is an intracellular protein complex that plays an important role in innate immune sensing. Its activation leads to the maturation of caspase-1 and regulates the cleavage of interleukin (IL)-1? and IL-18. Various studies have shown that activation of the immune system plays a pivotal role in the development of fatigue. However, the mechanisms underlying the association between immune activation and fatigue remained elusive, and few reports have described the involvement of NLRP3 inflammasome activation in fatigue.

METHODS: We established a mouse fatigue model with lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 3 mg/kg) challenge combined with swim stress. Both behavioural and biochemical parameters were measured to illustrate the characteristics of this model. We also assessed NLRP3 inflammasome activation in the mouse diencephalon, which is the brain region that has been suggested to be responsible for fatigue sensation. To further identify the role of NLRP3 inflammasome activation in the pathogenesis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), NLRP3 KO mice were also subjected to LPS treatment and swim stress, and the same parameters were evaluated.

RESULTS: Mice challenged with LPS and subjected to the swim stress test showed decreased locomotor activity, decreased fall-off time in a rota-rod test and increased serum levels of IL-1? and IL-6 compared with untreated mice. Serum levels of lactic acid and malondialdehyde (MDA) were not significantly altered in the treated mice. We demonstrated increased NLRP3 expression, IL-1? production and caspase-1 activation in the diencephalons of the treated mice. In NLRP3 KO mice, we found remarkably increased locomotor activity with longer fall-off times and decreased serum IL-1? levels compared with those of wild-type (WT) mice after LPS challenge and the swim stress test. IL-1? levels in the diencephalon were also significantly decreased in the NLRP3 KO mice. By contrast, IL-6 levels were not significantly altered.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that LPS-induced fatigue is an IL-1?-dependent process and that the NLRP3/caspase-1 pathway is involved in the mechanisms of LPS-induced fatigue behaviours. NLRP3/caspase-1 inhibition may be a promising therapy for fatigue treatment.

Source: Zhang ZT, Du XM, Ma XJ, Zong Y, Chen JK, Yu CL, Liu YG, Chen YC, Zhao LJ, Lu GC. Activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in lipopolysaccharide-induced mouse fatigue and its relevance to chronic fatigue syndrome. J Neuroinflammation. 2016 Apr 5;13(1):71. doi: 10.1186/s12974-016-0539-1. (Full article)

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